Tolerance and Finding an Aide

My mother is an Orthodox Jewish woman, and I have been unable to find an aide who can handle her rituals and cultural requirements. Providing care for her is just too much for me to handle, so I really need to hire an aide. Please help!

Isaac in New York, 53

As a professional Geriatric Care Manager for the last three decades, I have come across many situations that seemed unsolvable – and then I just dive in. When an elderly person needs help or is starting to go downhill mentally, physically, or both, you’d be surprised how often old prejudices can be overcome.

One such experience is of particular relevance in light of the recent conflicts in the Middle East. I had a new client who is an orthodox Jewish elderly person. She required an aide to be in the household to help her maintain a certain level of independence and quality of life. I searched the entire Orthodox Jewish community in her local area, but I couldn’t find an Orthodox Jewish aide available to work for her. After thinking "outside the box", I quickly found a Muslim aide who seemed perfect for the job.

Though they were different in so many ways, they shared common food habits and rituals. I spoke with the aide about various habits, rituals, and Orthodox religious requirements that had to be adhered to in the household. Once she said she was willing to take the position, I had the women meet. Lo and behold, they got along just fine, and the Muslim aide was quickly hired by my Jewish client.

These women have now been together for nearly 18 months, and harmony has prevailed the entire time. Though they both have relatives in harm’s way, they watch news coverage of the war in Israel and Lebanon together. They talk about their cultural history and differing points of view. Instead of fighting, they are gaining a better understanding of what the other side thinks. They are educating each other and becoming more tolerant. That is what happens when people are educated.

This story is just a microcosm of our world at large. My elderly have shown me that when we try to gain an understanding of each other’s customs, dress, religion, foods, and value systems, we can get along. If we each took the time to better understand our neighbor, friends, schoolmates, and co-workers, we’d grow in our understanding and compassion. We may even get to the point where we’ll realize that we’re all just human beings sharing this planet. We have much more in common than we think. My elderly clients have taught me this fact thousands of times over, and I thank them for this lesson.

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